Nets Pounced on Rice Inattention to al-Qaeda, Skip Clinton's --4/7/2004
2. Today Features Dad of Proud Marine Killed in Iraq, Supports War
The Bush administration's lack of attention pre-9/11 is newsworthy, but not evidence the Clinton administration was equally focused elsewhere.
Last week when a front page Washington Post story reported that a speech on threats in the world that National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice was scheduled to deliver on September 11, 2001, focused "largely on missile defense, not terrorism from Islamic radicals," the networks jumped on it, considering it to be big news.
But on Tuesday, when a front page Washington Times story highlighted how "the final policy paper on national security that President Clinton submitted to Congress -- 45,000 words long -- makes no mention of al Qaeda and refers to Osama bin Laden by name just four times," ABC, CBS, NBC and CNN news programs, which pounced on the Rice story, ignored it.
Tuesday was arguably a busier news day with the renewed fighting in Iraq, but the network newscasts found time to air less than pressing stories (CBS had deaths from police use of tasers, NBC a look at inaccuracies in Bush TV ads) and/or to raise comparisons to Vietnam.
Last week, the CBS Evening News centered a whole story around the Post piece on Rice, but on Tuesday night the newscast skipped the revelations about Clinton as Bill Plante raised the stigma of Iraq becoming like Vietnam. The NBC Nightly News also focused on the Rice angle last week while ignoring the Clinton story on Tuesday night, though David Gregory found time to cite how Senator Ted Kennedy called Iraq "Bush's Vietnam." ABC's World News Tonight, which skipped the Clinton story, last Thursday did not specifically cite the Post's piece on Rice, but on the April 1 broadcast Linda Douglass resurrected a two-year-old congressional report as she framed a story around how "the committee's findings support the claim made by former official Richard Clarke, that efforts to thwart al-Qaeda declined when President Bush first took office."
On CNN last Thursday, American Morning made the Rice item one of its top stories of the day and Bill Hemmer quizzed guest Cliff May about it, Inside Politics aired a full story on it and NewsNight made it one of its top stories, teasing it in its up top "the whip" segment. But on Tuesday, American Morning didn't utter a word about the Clinton national security forecast story, yet Hemmer squeezed in a mention of how "former President Bill Clinton's foundation will provide cheaper generic drugs to AIDS patients in all needy nations affiliated with the U.N.," Inside Politics skipped the Clinton angle, though a guest raised it unprompted, and CNN's NewsNight didn't bring it up, though, like ABC and NBC, they found room for a story on that day's vote in Inglewood California over the building of a Wal-Mart.
In the morning on the broadcast networks, CBS's Early Show and NBC's Today remained consistent, ignoring both stories, but while ABC's Good Morning America last week highlighted the Rice story, on Tuesday morning they didn't air a word about it. GMA did, however, run a lengthy plug for a Vanity Fair article critical of the Bush administration. Charles Gibson set it up: "We're going to turn now to what could be an explosive new report in Vanity Fair, which makes the case that before the war, the White House, especially Dick Cheney, pressured CIA experts to link Iraq to weapons of mass destruction, and we're joined now by one of the authors of that piece, Bryan Burrough."
While Today didn't pick up on the Rice story last Thursday morning. On Tuesday morning, the MRC's Geoff Dickens noticed, the program did focus on questions about the Bush team and Rice pre-9/11 without mentioning the new Clinton report. David Gregory previewed Rice's upcoming testimony:
FNC's Special Report with Brit Hume on Tuesday night, as noted above, did air a full story on the Clinton angle as Hume introduced a story from Wendell Goler: "Former White House counter-terrorism adviser Richard Clarke stirred a storm of controversy when he told the9-11 commission that the Clinton administration got it when it came to the threat from al-Qaeda and the Bush team did not. But President Clinton's final foreign policy report to Congress does not appear to support Clarke's claim."
Now, the contrasting transcripts which illustrate the differences in approach, on April 1 on Rice versus April 6 on Clinton, on CBS, NBC and CNN:
-- CBS Evening News.
On April 6, Bill Plante at the White House: "The President admitted today in his own words, 'we got tough work in Iraq.' But public support for Mr. Bush's handling of Iraq is slipping as casualties mount. In some polls it's now well under 50 percent. This White House has always maintained that Iraq is nothing like Vietnam. Public support for that war crumbled when the public began to see it as a quagmire."
-- NBC Nightly News.
-- CNN's American Morning.
Later, interviewing former RNC Communications Director Cliff May, the Post story formed co-host Bill Hemmer's first question: "Washington Post has a piece today, front page, left side, above the fold. It's saying on 9/11, Condoleezza Rice had a speech planned for that day that mentioned nothing about al-Qaeda. It was largely about missile defense. Is this the kind of thing the White House has concern with before she testifies?"
On April 6, Hemmer interviewed Bob Kerrey, a member of the 9-11 Commission, but didn't ask him about the Clinton story. During the 8:30am EDT half hour, Hemmer did find time for this favorable item about Clinton: "Former President Bill Clinton's foundation will provide cheaper generic drugs to AIDS patients in all needy nations affiliated with the U.N. Last year, Clinton's foundation negotiated cheaper prices for 16 countries in Africa and the Caribbean. Now the less expensive medication will go to any country supported by UNICEF's and the U.N.'s administered fund. It's expected to bring lifesaving drugs to millions of the world's most impoverished."
-- CNN's Inside Politics.
On April 6, no story on Clinton, leaving it to a guest, GOP strategist Greg Mueller, to bring it up. Woodruff asked: "Condoleezza Rice's testimony this Thursday, Greg, before the 9/11 Commission, how much is riding on what she has to say?" In reply, Mueller argued: "For eight years Bill Clinton could have gotten Osama bin Laden, and he didn't. We had the World Trade Center bombings in 1993, and we did nothing. The Cole bombings, we did nothing. The embassy bombings. We did nothing. Now we find out in a report today in the Washington Times that a 45,000-page [really word] report that Bill Clinton's office gave to George Bush, Osama bin Laden is a typo, Judy, and al-Qaeda is never even mentioned. So I think this strategy could backfire on the Democrats if they think they're getting anything out of it."
-- CNN's NewsNight.
Later, introducing King's piece, Brown ominously intoned: "On now to 9/11, what the administration knew in the days and months leading up to it and, just as important, where the priorities might have been. As the 9/11 commission prepares to question National Security Adviser Condoleezza Rice next week, a speech she never made has come into the public eye. The date on it chilling, the content could be telling."
On April 6 on Clinton: zilch.
An excerpt from the April 6 front page Washington Times story by James Lakely, "Al Qaeda absent from final Clinton report," which all the networks but FNC ignored:
The final policy paper on national security that President Clinton submitted to Congress -- 45,000 words long -- makes no mention of al Qaeda and refers to Osama bin Laden by name just four times.
The scarce references to bin Laden and his terror network undercut claims by former White House terrorism analyst Richard A. Clarke that the Clinton administration considered al Qaeda an "urgent" threat, while President Bush's national security adviser, Condoleezza Rice, "ignored" it.
The Clinton document, titled "A National Security Strategy for a Global Age," is dated December 2000 and is the final official assessment of national security policy and strategy by the Clinton team. The document is publicly available, though no U.S. media outlets have examined it in the context of Mr. Clarke's testimony and new book.
Miss Rice, who will testify publicly Thursday before the commission investigating the Bush and Clinton administrations' actions before the September 11 attacks, was criticized last week for planning a speech for September 11, 2001, that called a national missile-defense system a leading security priority....
The Clinton administration's final national-security report stated that its reaction to terrorist strikes was to "neither forget the crime, nor ever give up on bringing the perpetrators to justice."
The document boasted of "a dozen terrorist fugitives" who had been captured abroad and handed over to the United States "to answer for their crimes."...
In Mr. Clarke's best-selling book "Against All Enemies," he writes that during a transitional briefing in January 2001, Miss Rice's "facial expression gave me the impression that she'd never heard the term [al Qaeda] before."
But the Clinton administration's final national security document, written while Mr. Clarke was a high-level national security adviser, never mentions al Qaeda.
"Clarke was on the job as terrorism czar at that point," said a senior Bush administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity. "He played a significant role. His concerns should have been well-known."...
END of Excerpt
For the story in full: washingtontimes.com
OpinionJournal.com's "Best of the Web" column on Tuesday ( www.opinionjournal.com ) provided a link to the Clinton administration report as posted by an unaffiliated overseas site. For "A NATIONAL SECURITY STRATEGY FOR A GLOBAL AGE," released in December 2000 and posted by the Air War College, see: www.au.af.mil
As recounted in the April 5 CyberAlert, a Washington Post insider, over the weekend on the syndicated Inside Washington show, discounted the relevance of a Thursday front page Washington Post story, about how a speech on threats in the world that National Security Advisor Condoleezza Rice was scheduled to deliver on September 11, 2001, focused "largely on missile defense, not terrorism from Islamic radicals." Colbert King, a liberal who is the Deputy Editor of the Washington Post's editorial page and a weekly op-ed page columnist, demurred from defending the article. "I cannot with a straight face," he admitted. He acknowledged: "It was not the strongest story, although it got a lot of play." Indeed it did. See: www.mediaresearch.org
On Tuesday's Today, co-host Matt Lauer pursued the usual liberal line as he asked Paul Bremer "what steps do we need to take...to make sure that Iraq does not turn into another Vietnam?" But in an unusual take, the program also focused a segment on the father of a Marine killed in Iraq who was proud of what the U.S. was doing in Iraq and wanted the U.S. to stay until the job is done. When Couric asked the father how he felt about Iraq, he stood by the decision to go to war: "I believe that the government made the best decision they could based on the information that they had."
During his April 6 interview with Bremer, who was in Baghdad, Lauer posed this question: "As you know the events in Iraq are a major concern and a major issue in an election here in the United States. Senator John Kerry said that the President owes it to the American people who we're turning over sovereignty to and how on June 30th. Senator Ted Kennedy said Iraq is, 'George Bush's Vietnam.' Given the fact that, that U.S. forces are committed there for the long haul what steps do we need to take, Ambassador Bremer, to make sure that Iraq does not turn into another Vietnam?"
A few minutes later, the MRC's Geoff Dickens observed, Katie Couric set up a segment: "More than 600 U.S. troops have died since the start of the war in Iraq. 19-year-old Marine Private First Class Jeffrey Morris is among those who made the ultimate sacrifice. He died over the weekend little more than a month after he arrived in Iraq. Kirk Morris is Private Morris' father. Mr. Morris, good morning and our deepest condolences to you and your entire family."
After asking Morris to tell how he learned of his son's death and what he knows about how he died, Couric prompted him with this very positive assessment of the Marine Corps: "And in fact you say the Marines turned him into the perfect son."
Couric then word from the father: "And when he left, I'm, I'm just gonna quote you. He said, 'If I don't come back dad I'm going to be with God and I'm going to be okay.' You told him he'd be okay. He said, 'Well I just want to make sure that you know.' He said, 'There are a lot of reasons we're going over there dad. Patriotism, our country, my platoon mates, we're fighting for each other and that's what we do. And third, but no less important, we're fighting for the Iraqi people to choose their government. To choose how they want to live. It was a huge injustice for 30 years and we're there to set it right and we're not leaving until it's done.' I know that you were pretty overwhelmed by those comments weren't you?"
Couric elicited his feelings about Iraq: "And, and in closing, Mr. Morris. How, how do you feel about the situation in Iraq? The nation is so conflicted about the U.S. involvement there. Where do you stand at this point in time?"
Very much so.
-- Brent Baker